Everyone Loves A Secret

When a protagonist captures the audience’s imagination – particularly in a TV show, where you have so many hours to fill – there’s always a temptation to keep giving the viewers more and more of what they want.  Let’s squeeze in ways to talk about the character’s childhood, let’s introduce their family, let’s bring back their ex-girlfriend, explore every possible detail and angle of their life to date.

In fact, it’s much more effective if you leave a certain sense of mystery about your characters.  We all have secrets, and we all observe different levels of intimacy with different people –  we’ll share things with our friends that we wouldn’t with our workmates, for example.

Let your characters have their secrets.  Hint at things that you never fully explain. Never reveal why they shudder at the mere mention of Nebraska, or why they take the crime they’re investigating so personally when the victim is a child.

By giving the audience everything they think they want, you make the character appear shallow and too easily explained.  Leave them some dark depths, some trivial secrets and psychological contradictions, and your audience will remain interested in them for far longer.

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